Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Brushes On Watercolour - Wet On Wet

I had an interesting question the other day about watercolour paper and whether it is used wet or dry. Well, it is used both ways depending on what you are painting and the effect you want to make.

If you are going to paint a detailed painting, which needs to be accurate to scale (like mine) you will have to work on dry paper. The reason for this is that you will need to make your pencil drawing on your paper and as we all know - you can't draw with an ordinary lead pencil onto wet paper. A long time ago I did try drawing on my paper before soaking and stretching it. Unfortunately I discovered that when you do this, you also stretch your drawing and even when the paper has completely dried, the drawing is not absolutely as it was when you drew it. So for my purposes where accuracy is vital, it was useless. If however, 100% accuracy to scale is not needed, then you can certainly do this.

You may wonder why anyone would want to draw first, soak later. The reason for this, is that when you have a sheet of wet paper on your board (not completely, dripping wet but still soaked through) you can lay your paints onto the paper and get some wonderful effects. You will need to practice to see what I mean, but essentially the paint will mix in with the water held in the paper and spread out into wonderful shapes and patterns. When you then add another colour to the mix - oh lovely! Do be aware though, that where the paper is holding a lot of water, you will need to put reasonably strong colours on your brush.

If you need to let your paper dry so that you can put on an accurate drawing, you can however, wet areas of your paper with clean water (make sure it is clean!!) and then drop your colours into that area. No doubt you will find some frustrations. Quite often the paint will collect to the edges of its spread and when dry, creates and thickish hard line which most often you won't want. If you try and lift some of the paint when you see this happening, you will find to your dismay that quite often you get a 'floral' effect and most of the time you won't want this, although in a looser painting, it can be utilized to become a useful part of the design.

The picture at the top shows a small part from the background of one of my paintings (ignore the piece of dog neck) which shows granulation. Granulation occurs when some paints are mixed together - I usually make mine happen by adding ultramarine to my mix. I love the grainy effect it gives.

So to summarise - your paper can be worked dry, damp or wet. It will depend on your requirements and may well differ from painting to painting. Just keep going and don't give up if your efforts appear amateurish to begin with. Enjoy what you're doing. Don't make it an effort but look forward to it as an enjoyable discovery. Apart from learning to draw and paint, you will also begin to see differently. Yes, you will. Where once you would just look at an object, now you will start to really see it. You will notice it's shape, colour, the way the light falls on it. Yes, life will become more fun!

Talking of fun, did anyone notice the heading of this piece? If you take the initials it reads BOW-WOW - perfect for a dog obsessed person like me!
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